Recently, I wrote about the National league MVP race, analysing two players: Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. It was very harsh to not even mention the name Anthony Rendon in that discussion. The Washington Nationals third baseman is having a very under-the radar 1.000 OPS season, good for fourth in the majors and third in the NL.
Rendon was a solid above average 3B before his 2017 breakout, including coming fifth in MVP voting in 2014. In 2017, he had a .937 OPS and 5.9 WAR, followed by a .909 OPS season in 2018.
This success hasn’t been widely acknowledged for a few reasons. One is the quality at his position in the Majors. In 2017, when he came 6th in MVP voting, he was around fellow third basemen Nolan Arenado (4th), Kris Bryant and Justin Turner (7th/8th). Arenado is frequently a home run leader and is in the conversation about the best defensive third basemen ever which leads to more exposure, and the others play in bigger markets than Washington.
Another reason that Rendon is not more appreciated is that he has always been overshadowed by other superstars on the Nationals. The most obvious player being Bryce Harper. He is probably the most marketable player in MLB and is also one of the most talented.
In their respective times in Washington, Harper (2012-2018) was worth 27.4 WAR compared to Anthony Rendon’s (2013-2019) 27 WAR. This shows he has been just as valuable as Harper, but with less recognition.
Winning the 2019 National League MVP and signing a $200 million contract will likely put him in the spotlight. With Yelich’s season ending three weeks early, he will have the chance to capitalise on any slump from Bellinger. There is just a .04 difference between their OPS’s, although in OPS+ Bellinger still leads by 15 points. Bellinger has also hit 12 more home runs and been worth an extra 2.2 wins above replacement.
As it stands, there isn’t really a case to be made for Anthony Rendon to win the award. Even Christian Yelich and his 130 games has one more win above replacement which will be difficult for Rendon to reach at this stage. Even when his 2019 ends without an award, it has still been an excellent contract year and he deserves to be third behind two historic seasons.
One group of baseball fans who do not under appreciate the talent of Anthony Rendon is the Washington Nationals fanbase. It is crucial they can re-sign their star third baseman this offseason. How many franchises let superstars leave in successive years? This would reflect poorly on the front office and ownership. Yes, they have Juan Soto, but he will need support. They have a top five rotation in the game and are in a position to win now.
Rendon currently has the 9th best OPS in a season by a third baseman since 1902, everyone above him either current or future Hall of Famers (and A-Rod). He has had a historic 2019, just not quite at the level of Yelich or Bellinger.
Stats correct as of 11/9/2019